Source: Betty Luceigh
It was a nightmare. On a pristine white cloth, human organs were laid out individually in a grotesque pattern—an eye near a lung, a liver near a spleen, an ovary near a pancreas, a heart near a bladder near a brain. Each oozed its own biomolecular message into the spaces between them. To the tune of its organ, each message sang, “I have what you need! Connect to me-e-e!”
Terrified, I rolled over on my real stomach, leapt out of bed, tripped on a gall bladder—no, a slipper—knocked over the spine of my bed lamp, and finally toppled back onto my comforter. I quickly hid under it as if it were a layer of protective skin.
I was fully awake by then. I slowly touched my head and torso, feeling where I knew my brain, thyroid, lungs, heart, and other organs should be. As far as I could tell, nothing was missing. All were properly connected; nothing hurt. For reassurance, I repeated aloud to myself, “This arrangement of parts is my body. This is me.” An inexplicable calm descended throughout me. I understood I was composed of parts, but the way those parts connected and interacted provided a sense of wholeness that I experienced as the oneness of me—as my identifiable body self.
Stretching under the comforter as I stretched a metaphor, I imagined each biological substructure was a “citizen” (i.e., inhabitant, without reference to legal status) of this one body. Each citizen has duties to contribute to the healthy function of the living whole, me. In return, each has rights supported by the whole. My hands have a right to touch rose petals and a duty to bring food to my mouth. My nose has a right to smell roses and a duty to alert the lungs to the skunk nearby. Both have freedoms; both actively contribute to the whole. By freely serving to sustain the living whole, each sustains their individual freedom as well.
I arose from bed feeling like a Citizen of Everything. My organs continued to repeat, “We connect to everything! We need each other to be individuals that hold the whole together!“ The surreal reality of those moments quickly became confusing as I watched the morning news. I felt more directly connected to reported events than the day before. The nightmare had awakened something new in me. I listened and wept. I wept out of love of our nation and for all those suffering in these times. My rational mind tried to make sense of events that my heart somehow knew were nonsense. I did not know how to take the new insights of citizenship within myself and apply them, if possible, beyond my individual self.
When a real situation is far too complex to explain in simple terms is precisely when simple terms are needed most. It can be an effective way to point to the first step in a new exploration. I was impelled to try.
My contemplations brought me to this question: What would it mean to be a Beautiful Citizen? I refer to Beauty in the most comprehensive or universal meaning of the word. It includes a longing for intimate connections to create a whole, a devotion to harmony of forms and to the peacefulness of processes, and an intention to support all that is True and Good. Certainly I desire the citizen-organs of my body to co-participate this way to nourish the quality of my own life.
How would these observations of a Beautiful Citizen transfer if the “inhabitants” of a system were the human citizens of a self-governing nation? In a broad sense, such a citizen would have both rights and duties. Each would have fundamental rights established by the whole to live and be free. Each would have duties to contribute to the whole through service that would define and sustain the rights.
To be a Beautiful Citizen means having deeper values that serve the Whole of the community. It means having respect for rules and for other citizens even if there are disagreements. It means helping each other through difficulties. It means partaking in responsibility for the quality of the shared environment. It means being a person of truth, goodness, compassion, generosity, kindness, and love. Of course, given the complex diversity of humans, this is often not an easy task. That does not exempt us from making genuine efforts to connect and co-participate for the greater benefit of the society. Sometimes it means exercising Beautiful Courage by standing up against injustice, cruelty, violence, corruption, bias, and greed. Sometimes it means recognizing when someone is abusing their role by separating all the “organs” of the whole into a chaotic dysfunctional arrangement spread on a two-dimensional cloth. Perhaps most difficult of all is addressing weaknesses in our own character and values. A society can best serve all its citizens by encouraging them to strive for their highest nature as human beings. Rational, compassionate leaders at every level must serve as examples of our most cherished codes of behavior.
Perhaps a national nightmare serves a purpose by waking us up to reality of the role we must play as Beautiful Citizens. Have we become lazy by attending instead to the easy distractions of our technological toys? Can we reformulate an aspiring dream of mutual participation to hold the whole of us together? Can we rise up from our separated positions on a flat cloth and connect into a whole and wholesome nation of depth? Are we ready to transition to a new dimension of who we are as a nation?
Are we ready to become Beautiful Citizens(Inhabitants)? Are we ready to hold the whole together?
© 8/2019 Betty Luceigh